Tuesday, October 31, 2017

RECAP: Fall Middle School Camp

For our last magic trick of the year, we partnered with the Pyeongtaek Youth Center to create a - dare we say - epic overnight camp for local and foreign English speaking residents in Pyeongtaek. It was two days of non-stop action that started at the MooBong Youth Camp in Northwest Pyeongtaek and ended at Fall Fest at Camp Humphreys.

The first day of camp started off by picking up the kids at 9:00 a.m. and then heading off to MooBong Youth Camp where we spent the morning in small groups getting to know each other and planning some simple team building games. It was the perfect low level start needed to bring the students together and encourage participation.  The counselors were very good at their jobs and coaxed out the best in all the students so that they easily and quickly worked together. You could feel the stress and anxiety of being in a new place just slip away as the kids came out of their shells.

During lunch, the Pyeongtaek Community Center was also very relieved to see that our foreign students seemed to enjoy their curry and pork cutlet and ate well. In Korea, food is a big part of the culture, so when everyone can share a meal and be happy, it's a wonderful feeling for everyone. We really appreciated the student's good manners.

After lunch, students moved from the auditorium to the lower area of camp to paint pottery that will be fired and delivered to them in a few weeks. Kids learned about the full process of creating pottery before getting to paint both a cup and plate for home. For the creative types, this was the activity highlight of the day.

Next, we moved further down the hill to the Survivor Course where students and teachers played two games of paintball. This was so much fun! In fact, all the kids who asked not to play paintball completely forgot they didn't want to play by the time we got there and charged out onto the course. That's when you know you've won their hearts. When they completely forget to hate things.

After paintball we returned for dinner in the park, which was a feast of Korean BBQ, and then back to the gym for another few hours of playing and games before we headed to bed at 9 p.m.  We have no idea how the kids lasted so long without completely melting down, but they did and it was awesome.

Honestly, we have rarely been to a camp where the kids have found their way so effortlessly. We think the fact that there was so much diversity, and that no one in charge felt the need to go too fast or be overly controlling, created a positive atmosphere where the kids could just be themselves. If they wanted to run fast, sit still, or dance, or talk - nobody was mad. It was a group of event organizers and counselors who truly loved kids.

On the second day we all got up early, showered, and at 8:15 a.m. headed off to Camp Humphreys where we met with parents who had created a US style Halloween party complete with pumpkin carving, face painting, slime making, playing games like "Red Rover", and eating too much sugar. This was like the icing on the cake. It was heartwarming to bring the Korean students and center staff on base to see into the culture that many of us at South of Seoul come from. It felt like bringing our Korean friends home for the holidays. Thank you for the warmth you brought to the party.

After we had played all the games, carved all the pumpkins, and had eaten all the food, we hopped on the bus and moved the party to Fall Fest where the kids were set free to eat even more food, mingle, and play on the rides. We think the kids liked this time of freedom after a lot of structured play. It was a chance to cement the friendships that they had made and to have some quality time together before they had to say goodbye.

South of Seoul would like to thank the following organizations and people for their outstanding work on this camp:

The Pyeongtaek Youth Center for offering us this incredible opportunity to help create our dream camp. You have been exceptional to work for and we look forward to doing more with you in the future.  Special thanks to Director Mr. Lee, Camp Manager Mr. Kim, and Camp English Coordinator Ms. Eunice for listening to us and going out of your way to accommodate foreign students.
Left: Sig, Center: Director Lee, Right: Camp Coordinator Ms. Eunice
Sig from Sig Flips the Table for coordinating all the efforts on Camp Humphreys. Without your knowledge and organizational ability we could not have done this. You are our ideal partner and we value your effort and hard work. 

DODEA Humphreys Middle School for allowing us to host our event. We are a non-military and non-government volunteer organization, with no-budget, so finding a location was incredibly difficult. Special thanks to Dr. Kpinkpin and Mr. Elliot who saw value in our project and believed in us.
Left: Mr. Yu, Middle: Mr. Om, Right: Mr. Lee
There aren't words big enough for the U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys PAO office who never even skipped a beat when Sig emailed them out of the blue for help bringing the students on base. Mr. Yu and Mr. Om took the stress out of the day for us and made the students and Pyeongtaek Youth Center staff feel welcome. Soon, you will be able to see more camp images in the USAG Humphreys Flicker feed: www.flicker.com/usaghumphreys. Also, thank you to Mr. Lee who will be covering this event in the Pyeongteak Culture Newspaper. 
Parents and SOS Volunteers
The amazing parents that planned the party and made it look easy to decorate in an hour and have it all packed up within 15 minutes. We felt so loved and encouraged.

Then we have a special shout out to the SOS volunteers who helped with the brainstorming and connections needed to keep the project moving forward.

To the inclusive and joyful students who showed up and made the experience wonderful. We spoke all weekend about how impressive the students were and how they included each other and cared for each other. It's not often you have a middle school camp filled with happy teenagers. It was an honor to be your camp leaders.

Finally, due to everyone's diligence and teamwork, the biggest issues we faced were that some shirts were too small and not realizing we needed to bring our own towels.

But don't just take our word for it, let the students speak for themselves: